Body cameras proposed in Ridgefield police budget

The Ridgefield Police Department

The Ridgefield Police Department

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

RIDGEFIELD — The police department is looking to purchase body cameras ahead of a state requirement.

Police Chief Jeff Kreitz included body cameras in the department’s proposed budget for the upcoming year during a Board of Selectman meeting on Feb. 4, which the board is now reviewing.

The total cost of the cameras is about $424,000 and would be paid over a five-year period, Kreitz said.

The department is required to have body cameras installed by July 2022 per the state’s police accountability bill, but prefers to have them before the deadline.

“We would like to get them as soon as we can, so that’s why we put it in this year’s budget process,” Kreitz said.

Danbury has acquired body cameras after working for over a year to get them.

The department sought out different cameras during its search, but found the Axon body camera to be the best option. Unlike other camera brands, Axon does not rely on a server to back up its files because it is cloud-based.

The cloud-based system would not only allow the department to upload camera footage, but the system also permits the department to share or obtain footage from the public. Kreitz cited a hypothetical example of larceny at a store where footage might have been taken.

“You can send a link to the loss prevention of that store so people can upload the video of a crime to the cloud and send it to police,” he said.

Kreitz said he had no security concerns regarding the system.

“I’m confident in the cloud-based system,” he said.

Ridgefield’s initial payment amounts to almost $164,600 for all of the equipment and system, which would be categorized into the capital budget. All other subsequent payments, for system support and licenses, would cost about $62,500 each year until the sixth year, when the cost would slightly increase to between $68,000 and $70,000, Kreitz said during the meeting.

The given quote is the full price, he said. The town will not have to pay for extra storage in the future, which it might have with another brand.

Axon also provides an “automatic replacement cycle,” Kreitz said.

“With this product, you’re going to get the initial body cam for every officer, automatic refresh at 2 1/2 years, and then another new product at five years,” he said. “The dash cams will be replaced at the fifth year.”

The department will always have updated equipment as part of this program, Kreitz said.

“Other options were more of a purchase without this five-year layer of tech assurance,” said Kevin Redmond, finance director.

Board member Barbara Manners said the product “sounds like a really good investment.” First Selectman Rudy Marconi echoed a similar thought and said the Axon cameras were “a better product.”

How do these cameras work?

The Axon cameras come with different settings the department can purchase and set up. For example, the car cameras turn on when the cruiser’s lights are activated and body cameras turn on when either the officer’s taser turns on or a firearm is drawn from the holster, Kreitz said.

“There’s a chip in the holster of your firearm, so if you draw your weapon, the body cam will also turn on,” he said. “It’s a chip that activates it.”

The cameras run on a 30-second loop but can be set to run for a longer period of time, such as 90 seconds.

“If you have an incident, then you turn it on, you have the previous time frame that it was set for already captured,” Kreitz said. “Our job, you know, things happen in an instant and that’s the reason for that setting.”

The Axon purchase remains under review by the Board of Selectmen, but Kreitz said officers are looking forward to getting them.